Miley Cyrus dropped Bangerz – the album that shocked the world – in 2013, about two months after that year’s VMA performance that also shocked the world. Four years later, and “Malibu”, the first single from Miley’s unnamed upcoming album, has been released, revealing a side of her unrecognizable from what we’ve seen the last few years.

Miley’s long forgotten days of Disney stardom led to the starlet rebelling from the clean, Disney-approved image, searching for her own identity. After the infamous leaked video of the star taking hits of salvia from a bong on her 18th birthday went viral, she became shrouded in scandals, mostly reaching a climax with the 2013 VMA performance involving Robin Thicke, twerking, and a giant foam finger.

Now, Miley Cyrus has again shocked the public, this time in a much different way. Her newest song, “Malibu”, is a total deviation from the singer’s Bangerz days. The song features an unexpected indie-pop sound with folksy vocals. The music video itself makes Cyrus appear angelic and cloaked in innocence, from the white outfits she wears, her simple makeup, and demure expressions and poses.

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Overall, it seems as though the singer is in a much different place now, mentally and emotionally, and it’s being reflected in her music. Cyrus revealed in her recent  Billboard cover story that she has been drug-free for a while. “I haven’t smoked weed in three weeks,” she said, “which is the longest I’ve ever [gone without it]. I’m not doing drugs, I’m not drinking, I’m completely clean right now! That was just something that I wanted to do.” According to the same story, Cyrus has also rekindled her relationship with actor Liam Hemsworth after their breakup in 2013. These things make it pretty evident that Miley has gone through a lot of changes in the last few years, which is bound to influence her music.

While “Malibu” has been received pretty positively by many fans and critics alike, some reviews didn’t see the appeal of Miley’s return to her roots. A Highsnobiety review by Jake Boyer calls the single “a failure” and “a distaster”. The author spares no harshness, saying, ““Malibu” is so inoffensive that it carries a negative sum of offensiveness; it is as stale and worn as the dentures of a nursing home resident and as exciting as standing resolutely still on the people-mover at an airport. It is an atrocious mistake, and one you will undoubtedly hear playing at H&M stores on loop all summer.”

I, however, am curious to hear what Miley will be releasing in the future. Her sunny, romantic “Malibu” is an obvious departure from her past projects, which she hasn’t tried to hide, but rather embraced. It really seems like Cyrus is in a good place at the moment and I’m excited to hear how it will reflect in coming music. Not having been a fan of Bangerz‘s sound, and only liking a few tracks off of her more recently released Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, I am pretty excited by this new sound that Miley is experimenting with. Although I wasn’t a fan of those projects, I believe they were a necessary era that Cyrus was able to learn from and matured her as an artist.

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